By Ashley Denny.
CLEMSON, SC- Brad Brownell’s Tigers’ are still searching for that elusive road victory, and their Saturday 4 PM match up with the Hokies of Virginia Tech may just be their best opportunity. The Hokies are coming into Saturday’s game at 1-6 in the ACC after suffering a 75-60 loss to Duke earlier this week. With the Tigers’ coming off a solid offensive performance in which they held their own and kept the game interesting against #16 Virginia, this game is shaping up to be a must win for both sides.
“We played well against Virginia,” Brownell said in press conference on Friday. “Certainly the efficiency was much better, only had four turnovers throughout the game so our guys are doing a good job of taking care of the ball. We got some guys in double figures, the only one that we needed to get into double figures but didn’t get there was Andre (Young), but Tanner had a nice game, Devin played well, and Bobo gave us some good minutes off the bench. I thought our freshmen played solid but we just needed Andre to have a better game offensively and defensively we made a few mistakes that cost us some transition points.”
All of Clemson’s four ACC losses have been by 7 points or fewer, what has Brownell told his team to keep their level of frustration from rising?
“I think it speaks again to the character of our team and the way we’re playing from the standpoint of you look at a lot of teams getting blown out every once in a while and our team hasn’t been that way,” Brownell said. “We’ve been in every game and have competed, gave ourselves chances to win, haven’t made a couple plays in certain situations to win the games so it becomes a little frustrating because you feel like you’re playing well enough in some instances to get a win and we don’t. But we knew coming into the season that our margin for error was very small with this team, we don’t have enough offensive firepower to be able to make up for defensive mistakes, and when a guy like Andre has a tough scoring night it makes it harder for us to win games. We have to play pretty darn well and efficiently to win most games at this level.”
Junior forward Devin Booker has really started to come on for the Tigers’ as of late and will have to continue to do so with the suspension of fellow big man Milton Jennings earlier last week, what has Booker been doing differently that has led to his success?
“The other night I think he did a good job of finding ways to go back outside,” Brownell said. “We knew that against Virginia it would be hard to score inside because they double the post so much, thought Devin did a great job of reacting to find open spots. He did a better job last year than he’s done this year, it’s been a little surprising to me that he hasn’t been as confident this year away from the basket, I thought last year he played more away from the basket because of Jerai, but I’ve talked to him about it and he was able to make two big threes against Virginia.”
As the Tigers’ travel to Blacksburg today, they know that they will be going up against a very hungry team in Virginia Tech, one that like the Tigers’ is trying to get on a roll in order to secure a post-season spot.
“I think we’ll face a team that’s really hungry, I don’t think they played as well against Duke last night as they have been playing,” Brownell said. “I’m sure they’re having a very spirited practice today and are going to be excited to have the opportunity to play somebody right away like this, we’re going to get a good shot from them. Virginia Tech is a team that has surprised me a bit, they’re good enough to go to Virginia and win but then they’ve lost some games that I’m sure has Seth (Greenberg) a little upset. That speaks again to how the league is very close.”
As for the guard play at Virginia Tech, Brownell has been very impressed.
“I think Erick Green is just a terrific player, I think he can get his own shot, he’s tall about 6 foot 3 and shoots the ball over his head. He can make threes; put it on the ground and score, good defender. They put the ball in his hands a lot and it’s not hard for him to get 16 points. Hudson, he’s a different kind of player, he’s a guy they post up in their offense around the basket, which could be problematic for us, and we may have to double the post to keep him from scoring. The other thing he can do is make threes, he’s older and confident, he’s going to be able to make some plays for him.”
As for the suspension of Milton Jennings due to a failure to comply with academic standards, Jennings will not make the trip to Blacksburg with his teammates.
“He’s not practicing this week I set some guidelines up that I want him to meet and if he can take care of those things and gets himself where I feel he’s in a good place, we’ll talk about bringing him back. It’s part of college basketball and if you’re about doing things the right way and holding your kids accountable you’ll have this situations. I think there are a lot of coaches who wouldn’t discipline kids for some of the things that have happened, but I believe that you have to sit kids down and make them understand that it’s a privilege to be a part of the program and if you don’t do what you’re supposed to do then there’ll be consequences.”